By: GELE AGBAI
Scores of indigenes of Emeabiam Community in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State on Friday, June 2, 2023 trooped out happily to witness the foundation stone laying ceremony of a health centre being undertaken by Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF) in the community.
The founder of BAAF is the wife of the Ondo State Governor, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, who hails from the community.
From across the nooks and crannies of the community, they came: the elderly, youths, women and children. Preening in their traditional isiagu upon trouser attire for the men and lace blouse upon George wrapper for the women and the youths in their snickers, the natives came in droves to be living witnesses to the history being made by the foundation.
In spite of marrying outside her community, Mrs. Akeredolu has continued to show interest in the wellbeing of her kith and kin.
Seeing that her ancestral hometown lacks good access road, she had attracted the construction of the 10.5km Ihiagwa-Eziobodo-Emeabiam Road. The construction which is being undertaken by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is expected to be completed soon to ease movement of people and evacuation of agricultural products from Emeabiam Community and its environs.
It was praises galore for the Ondo First Lady as the foundation stone laying ceremony of the health facility got underway. The elders including the Traditional Ruler of the community, Eze Eunan Eke were not only effusive in their gratitude to the first lady but also prayed for ceaseless blessings upon her and her household.
Clearly, the people were enamoured by the good thoughts and love which the governor’s wife has and has continued to show to the community.
The health centre is sited on 27 plots of land situated beside Secondary School, Emeabiam. The expansive premises will also have a skills acquisition centre and a freedom square.
Pa Cyril Akagha opened the floodgate of praises and good wishes while blessing the kolanuts to signal the commencement of the ceremony.
He prayed for sound health, protection and longevity for the First Lady and members of her family for electing to care for the health needs of the people of the community.
The Traditional Ruler of the community, Eze Eunan Eke toed same path by praying that the First Lady would not just have the funds to complete the project but also remain alive and well after its commissioning.
For Nze Uchegbulem Okere of Umuaro Umudim Umuneche Umuokpo, the Emeabiam Community is happy that one of her daughters is deploying her resources to provide healthcare for the natives.
Nze Okere(aka Soja) prayed that nothing would disrupt the completion of the project. He also urged other well-to-do indigenes of the community to emulate Mrs. Akeredolu.
In her address, the Ondo First Lady promised that the Ada Emeabiam II Health Centre project would be completed at a record time for use by the people of the community and their neighbours.
Mrs. Akeredolu, whose address was read by her media aide, Hon. Rowland Onyeukwu asserted that the people of Emeabiam Community deserve more than they have gotten from successive governments in the state.
She regretted that the Emeabiam Community remains neglected in spite of the millions of Naira that accrue yearly to the state government’s coffers from the rubber plantation in the community.
She said; Emeabiam is a well populated town, endowed by nature with rich vegetation, green and serene environment complemented by the beautiful waterside. The town also hosts the popular Imo Rubber Estate which annually injects millions of naira into the revenue coffers of the state government. Despite this, Emeabiam has remained largely ignored and marginalized; lacking so many basic infrastructure.
“One of such basic infrastructure is a befitting healthcare facility. Emeabiam is still suffering from the absence of both government and privately owned health centres.
“To access care, residents have to travel up to 10 kilometres before they could reach the closest healthcare facility.
“As a result, expectant mothers are often left at the mercies of quacks and traditional birth attendants who may not have the knowledge and expertise of improved and more efficient birth delivery services.
They are also not equipped to handle complicated situations. This has had its toll on the health of mothers and children in Emeabiam. What we are doing today is to change this story and usher in a breath of fresh air.”
Clearly, the first lady is contributing immensely to the change in the fortunes of her ancestral home. She has continuously brought the attention of the state government to the plight of her people and carried out empowerment programmes in the community. Her Bemore Empowered Initiative has trained several girls from Emeabiam Community and Imo State on ICT and solar technology.
And a grateful Emeabiam Community in 2017 conferred on her the Ada Emeabiam II chieftaincy title. The larger Owerri Federal Constituency which has also benefitted from her milk of kindness in 2021 conferred on her the Ada Owere I chieftaincy title.
The importance of the health centre to the natives made them not to mind the wetness caused by the heavy downpour that occurred as the foundation laying ceremony was about to wind up. To them, the rain was rather a blessing. As they retired to their homes, the prayer on their lips was that God should continuously bless Ada Owere I to continue to empower them.